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Spike in air traffic demand as countries ease COVID-19 protocols

By Wole Oyebade
18 February 2022   |   4:20 am
International air traffic demand has gained momentum with more passengers travelling as countries eradicate COVID-19 protocols.

(Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

International air traffic demand has gained momentum with more passengers travelling as countries eradicate COVID-19 protocols.

The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) market survey released yesterday showed 11-percentage point increase for international tickets sold in recent weeks, in proportion to 2019 sales.

The market reaction, without impact on infection rate, has rekindled calls on other governments to remove all travel barriers including quarantine and testing for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine.

Also, to enable quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result; remove travel bans, and accelerate the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travellers pose no greater risk for COVID-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

In the period around February 8 (seven day moving average) the number of tickets sold stood at 49 per cent of the same period in 2019.

In the period around January 25 (seven day moving average) the number of tickets sold stood at 38 per cent of the same period in 2019.

The 11-percentage point improvement between the January and February periods is the fastest such increase for any two-week period since the crisis began.

The rise in ticket sales comes as more governments announce a relaxation of COVID-19 border restrictions. An IATA survey of travel restrictions for the world’s top 50 air travel markets (comprising 92 per cent of global demand in 2019 as measured by revenue passenger kilometers) revealed the growing access available to vaccinated travellers.

About 18 markets (comprising about 20 per cent of 2019 demand) are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine or pre-departure testing requirements.

A total of 28 markets are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine requirements (including the 18 markets noted above). This comprises about 50 per cent of 2019 demand.

Thirty-seven markets (comprising about 60 per cent of 2019 demand) are open to vaccinated travellers under varying conditions (18 having no restrictions, others requiring testing or quarantine or both).

These numbers reflect a spate of relaxations announced globally, including in Australia, France, the Philippines, the UK, Switzerland, and Sweden among them.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said the momentum toward normalising traffic is growing.

“Vaccinated travellers have the potential to travel much more extensively with fewer hassles than even a few weeks ago. This is giving growing numbers of travellers the confidence to buy tickets. And that is good news!

“Now we need to further accelerate the removal of travel restrictions. While recent progress is impressive, the world remains far from 2019 levels of connectivity. Thirteen of the top 50 travel markets still do not provide easy access to all vaccinated travelers. That includes major economies like China, Japan, Russia, Indonesia, and Italy,” Walsh said.

He added that travel restrictions have had a severe impact on people and on economies. They have not, however, stopped the spread of the virus.

“And it is time for their removal as we learn to live and travel in a world that will have risks of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. This means putting a stop to the singling out of the traveling population for special measures.

“In nearly all cases, travellers don’t bring any more risk to a market than is already there. Many governments have recognised this already and removed restrictions. Many more need to follow,” Walsh said.